We left Tulum in the morning, buses and colectivos which stop at any place you are waiting, run to Puerto Carmen and Cancun. The bus travel in Mexico is easy and comfortable, buses are air-conditioned, you receive a half litre bottle of mineral water on entering the bus, and without the noisy loud music which is played inside the bus, it Will be a perfect way of travelling. But this nuisance exists not only in Mexico, we have found that it exists in Sri Lanka, Thailand, India too.
The bus journey to Playa Carmen took less than one hour, when the bus stopped near the harbour, I saw from the window of the bus the boats and many people strolling about, and I told Alex that we should get down there. I was not so keen on going to Cancun, a city noted not for any historical or architectural monuments, but to the mass tourism. We have seen the beautiful cities around the world destroyed by this phenomena and in Spain itself, the islands like the Canaries, Balearic and even the South coast of Spain turned into shopping malls, cement buildings, gaudy bars, alcoholic dens infested by binge drinkers.
However, before we could decide whether to get down there, the bus restarted and we reached Cancun. On this journey we had not stayed at many hostels frequented by backpackers as Alex knew I preferred individual accommodation. So he had missed out on meeting the young crowd, but now I was not feeling good and we decided to find a quiet place to stay.
In front of the bus station was a billboard announcing a comfortable hotel, so we crossed the road and enquire at the reception desk if there was a double bedroom available. Yes there was and we could see it too. The available room on the third floor, after traversing a long corridor was shabby and looked down at the bus station and at the city sprawled on the right. We said sorry, we wanted a quiet room at the back. We came out of the hotel and asked at the bus station if there was any tourist information office nearby. A man standing nearby, who turned out to be a hotel agent told us about a new hotel in the Zona Hotelera, which was not so expensive. He wrote down the address and the bus number which would take us to that place on Boulevard Kukulcan. He told us that he was an student and was working as a hotel representative to make some money. Which later turned out to be untrue.
A partial view of the pool
We took the bus and asked the driver to drop us at the hotel, but he told us that he did not know it, and we should keep a look- out from the window. Looking out we saw large tourist complexes "resorts" behind 12 meter walls, guarded by security personnel, there were no street numbers and the bus took us to the last stop, near Hotel Melia. Disappointed, we started walking back, asking a security guard or a passerby, but nobody could tell us about this hotel. After walking quite some distance, we at last found a building, a makeshift sign posted outside, gave away the secret that it was a hotel.
We went down, picked up our backpacks, went up again and sprawled on the bed. We were tired. It was late afternoon and from the window we could see the sea and in the distance the outline of Isla Las Mujeres, which is just a fifteen minute hop by ferry.
Adjacent to our hotel was a large mansion with a private landing place and in the evening we saw a boat berthed out in the sea. The whole beach are is private, belonging to the resorts which look out to the sea but from the street are totally private and enclosed by tall walls. We later went down to eat something nearby, as the city centre was far and the only way was to take a bus. We saw that the beach was not safe for bathing, the shore was full of dirt and algae and quite windy.
The restaurant about three hundred meters from the hotel was empty, only three tables were full, each occupied by a couple. We sat on the terrace facing the sea, but the wind was so strong that we moved inside the covered area. It is my rule never to ask a hotel clerk or receptionist to recommend a restaurant, although I have broken this rule a few times, as I did now. The restaurant was expensive, menu very limited and when we asked the waiter as to what could we eat, he suggested Paella and Squid. When we asked why the restaurant was empty, we were told that it was off season and there were not many tourists. We gathered that the prices were high because it was in the area of the resorts.
We had cold beers each, ordered Paella and Squid in garlic sauce as suggested by the waiter, an elderly stout man of over fifty. After a delay of nearly forty minutes, by which time we had another beer and eaten a plate of green salad, the waiter brought a tray of Paella, rice floating in liquid, a few shrimps and a few shell fish, three slices of red pepper and some pieces of chicken. And it was cold. I knew that the paella had come out of tin and shrimps and other ingredients had been added to make it look fresh.
The swimming pool at our hotel
I called the waiter and told him point blank what I thought of his paella and he confessed that since it was off season and there were no customers, the cook had opened a tin. So I told him to cancel the order of Squid in garlic sauce. We had hoped that he would apologise or offer us a free drink, may not charge for the beer or the salad which was nothing but limpid cucumber, cabbage, tomato and onions. But he did nothing of the sort and we paid 72 pesos for paella, salad and beer apart. I know that paella looks good in the photo but in reality was uncooked rice and unappetising.
And at night it rained.